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How to Rescue Americans and Win an Oscar: A Review of Argo


By: Tyler Garling

1979 was a tough time for 52 Americans. On November 4th, Iranian militants stormed the US embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. The hostages were held for 444 days. However, the Iranians failed to capture six diplomats. These six diplomats were out in Iran, surrounded by people who wanted them dead, and they needed to be rescued. Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, is the story of their rescue.

The US State Department begins to come up with plans for rescuing the diplomats. Unfortunately, they can’t run in and rescue them by force, because the Iranians are not aware that the diplomats have escaped. Tony Mendez (Affleck) is a CIA specialist brought in to help figure out the problem. Affleck has never been known for his acting, but in Argo he gives a fairly decent performance. I highly doubt that Affleck’s name will be on any Best Actor list, but he’s making progress.

Mendez is at a loss for ideas too until he finds some inspiration. Mendez pitches his newfound idea to the State Department. The idea consists of the six escapees being disguised as Canadian filmmakers who are out scouting exotic locations for a sci-fi movie called Argo. The State Department approves of his idea skeptically. Even though Mendez gets his operation approved, the pressure is on; Mendez is constantly being reminded by his supervisor, Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), that “the whole country is watching you. They just don’t know it.”

Mendez assembles his “dream team” with Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Both Goodman and Arkin are accomplished actors in the industry and, yet again, deliver good performances. Similar to another 2012 hit, Looper, the makeup and casting department did a fantastic job of finding actors who look exactly like the real people they’re portraying. During the credits, photographs of the actual people involved are shown and Kyle Chandler looks exactly like Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordon. Argo sets the bar for upcoming historical films to find lookalikes (I’m looking at you, Lincoln).

Affleck does an outstanding job of recreating the chilling image of Iran in the ‘70s. With burning American flags and bodies hung from cranes, some images will stick in your head long after the movie, much like they did to the actual hostages.

Argo is a thriller that delivers. With so much at stake in the mission, any little mess up could result in the loss of not just six people, but also the 52 hostages. Argo provides one of the biggest thrills of 2012 during its climatic ending.

Argo is going to be a major contender at the Academy Awards this year. As of right now, I think Argo will win Picture of the Year at the Oscars and, perhaps, the Golden Globes; it will face some heavy competition. Though it isn’t my favorite movie of the year (that goes to the expertly written Seven Psychopaths)  I believe the Academy will find something special in it. Argo is a film that cannot be missed. It provides edge of your seat thrills and nail-biting suspense, and it may just emerge as 2012’s Best Picture.

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